Fake News: Climate Change Edition

Political Insider headline

In his article, James Carson considers the origin of “fake news” as well as its current usage. He states, “Bending the truth for political gain is nothing new.” Since the first emporer of Ancient Rome, fake news has been used as political propoganda. Increased globalization and technological advancements in the 20th century contributed to the use of fake news as propoganda and it has only continued to grow in scale with the emergence of the internet. Following President Donald Trump’s criticism of news providers such as the New York Times and CNN, there has been much discourse surrounding the term “fake news.” This term raises an interesting question: how has politics influenced the media? When consuming news media, how much skepticism is healthy?

Nate Silver raises a similar question in his book The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail. In its twelfth chapter, Silver considers skeptism regarding climate change. He asks, “How have politics and other perverse incentives undermined the search for scientific truth?” According to Silver, it is not uncommon for correlation to be confused with causation (305). That being said, it is also possible for “noisy data” to distract from the truth. In 2012, four years before he would win the presidential election, Donald Trump asserted that climate change was a hoax. Two years later, he referred to global warming as ‘very expensive bullshit.’ While some skepticism is healthy, a complete denial of facts is not only unwise, it is dangerous. In her article, Clare Foran states:

If Trump fails to take climate change seriously, the federal government may do little to address the threat of a warming planet in the next four years. A presidential administration hostile to climate science also threatens to deepen, or at the very least prolong, the skepticism that already exists in American political life.

President Trump’s public condemnation of news media and his denial of climate change is a worrisome combination. This abundance of skepticism ignores and delegitimizes the science surrounding climate change. It denies humanity’s role in the increasing presence of greenhouse gases. In essence, it boasts “fake news.”



2 thoughts on “Fake News: Climate Change Edition

  1. Hi Rekea,

    I thought this was really interesting! Your connection between fake news and ancient Rome was really interesting, and something I was surprised to learn. I guess it makes sense that ancient regimes and empires used fake news as propaganda tools to keep their citizens/subjects in line, as it was almost impossible to do otherwise without the real information. I guess that is what is so surprising that our current climate is so overtaken by fake news, when we have the ability and the technology to disprove it.


  2. Hey Rekea,

    I think that “fake news” is wrongly seen as a new phenomenon. You mention in your post that fake news was used even during the days of the Roman Empire. This has long been a part of politics and people should understand that. It reminds of Napoleon when he said that “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” This has been true in politics for a long time. It seems to be interesting that Trump views global warming as “fake news” while his election was also supported by “fake news.” It seems that the moral of the story is that in politics, news is probably fake.

    – Vlad


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